The Meadville Tribune
By Jean Shanley
Wednesday, May 30, 2012
CONNEAUT LAKE — Two years from now, the “behind the scenes” work will be completed and the physical work of revitalizing downtown Conneaut Lake should be started.
That’s the word from John Grossman, president of E.G. & G. of Akron, Ohio, who is working as a consultant and handling all details of the plans for giving the borough an extensive “face-lift”—and improving the economy of the town.
Grossman, in a recent phone interview, said he has done similar work in 75 communities and has been successful in obtaining grants in such Pennsylvania cities as Youngsville, Slippery Rock and Grove City; Chagrin Falls, Ohio, and other towns. Although nothing is visible on the streets of Conneaut Lake at this time, it doesn’t mean work is not being done, he emphasized.
Currently, the team from E.G. & G. is working with Conneaut Lake Borough Council and the Conneaut Lake Community Development Committee, which is spearheading the project. The work at this point has included public hearings for input as well as drawing up project plans, which show the concept of what the area will look like when it is completed.
There already have been two sets of drawings—the original and a revised set drawn up after input was received. The second set is being “tweaked” now in response to further input, especially about Fireman’s Beach and parking for boat owners. Previously, it had been suggested that boat owners could park their cars and boat trailers on property downtown, but that idea was abandoned after hearing response from the public, Grossman said. The goal is to have the final plan done by the end of this month for council to review and for the committee to continue with work already in progress.
A fund drive to pay for the consultant’s work has been fairly successful, but more funds are needed. Initially $100,000 was the goal, but the CLCDC has extended that to $150,000 to pay for any unexpected costs.
The committee has received donations from several banks, from Channellock Inc. and Sheetz, and the amount raised is now about $62,000, plus an expected $25,000 grant (a matching grant) which would take the total to nearly $90,000—just a little short of the original goal. Ed Yates, chairman of the CLCDC, said the committee is very optimistic about the finances and has had positive input from many people. Another fundraising push is planned, including several projects for the summer, Yates said.
Currently, Armstrong cable television is broadcasting a video written by Bill Eldridge of the CLCDC and narrated by Bill Hillgrove of the Pittsburgh Steelers about the town and its project for revitalization
Where to begin
The work will be done in phases, Grossman explained—probably Fireman’s Beach as one, and Water Street and the cross streets as another phase. He said when plans are complete for the revitalization; council will decide what will be the first project.
Cost is very important, Grossman said, and noted that E.G. & G. “will help in that regard. Our job is to be planner, cost estimators and help them make good decisions,” he said. When the spreadsheets are done, showing the cost estimates and timetables, then the decision will be made regarding the first phase.
However, he said, no work can get started without finding potential sources for financing. He said he would be very specific in searching for the grants needed to do the work—based on his previous work. He hopes to have financial plans done by June and start working on grants over the summer.
The entire project is expected to cost about $4 million.
Asked where the grants would come from, he said he is still working on some of them and will go back to sources he has used before.
The timetable he has in mind is to complete the financial plans this summer, make grant applications in late summer and into 2013, and then he hopes to be in position with grant funding to move forward with blueprint drawings through the winter of next year.
The next step then would be to take the master plan document and commitment for funding and file documents for bidding to contractors who might bid on the work.
The plan would be for contracts to be awarded in the winter of 2014 (January or February) and the work to begin in spring.
Grossman said he is very aware of the tourist season at Conneaut Lake and expects work to be done so it would accommodate the tourists.
Calling Conneaut Lake a “jewel in the rough,” Grossman said he is excited about the project, especially since it is on the recently designated Heritage route 6 historic highway.
He said a borough building is not in the plans being developed.
Grossman has been pleased with input from borough council, the CLCDC and from the public session and the community at large, he said. He said the improvements will include work to the infrastructure (streets and sidewalks and putting utilities underground) and sees the improvement as allowing Conneaut Lake to grow its economy and the regional economy, adding that it will be very helpful to the tax base of Conneaut Lake.
Remove overhead wires
Plans include removal of overhead wires, adding decorative street light and signal poles; landscaping, including trees and flowers; new curbing, sidewalks and crosswalks; and Fireman’s Beach improvements.
Known as the Streetscape Project, the improvements to Fireman’s Beach and downtown Conneaut Lake is the second major project at Conneaut Lake in recent years.
The first was the renovation of the Ice House Park done with backing from Dr. Robert and Bobbie Moyers and Bob and Kathy Moss, which has been a drawing card and a major beautification effort at the entrance to the borough. Dr. Moyers said that project took two years from beginning to end.
CLCDC hopes when all the work is complete, a high-end restaurant and other businesses could be enticed to locate at Conneaut Lake Borough to increase the tax base and to improve the town.
Borough council, in the meantime, is continuing its work to get property owners to clean up their properties and do what they can to make the town more attractive to visitors.